This story is a sad one. Have you ever created something? Something wonderful, that brought enjoyment and pleasure into the lives of others? It’s a great feeling. However, to then have to just stand and watch your creation banned, the means to create it restricted, for no other reason than ignorance and short sightedness. Oh, how that is a difficult time. McDonald’s has a large presence around the world. It is something of a crutch for those who travel overseas, making the full cultural immersion a difficult thing for weak-stomached individuals looking for an easy fix. Rather than eating dirty street food, random local food, why not get something “safe,” something “familiar.”
Well, it goes without saying that those habits are not mine. I love the dirty street food. I take no offense by those who are picky eaters, as I have many friends who indeed have suffered quite a toll by even the most average of ‘world cuisine.’ In fact, I am curious as to how I have been fortunate enough to not pick up some sort of stomach virus through my promiscuous eating habits, trying new foods on a whim, ordering food without knowing what it is, what it tastes like, how much damage it might do.
However, even to me, McDonald’s holds a certain value in its world reach. I may not ever order a hamburger, breakfast, or any typical product of theirs; but, they serve the best and cheapest soft-serve ice cream cones in the world.
I never eat McDonald’s food in America. The food is simply not worth the price nor the experience. Not even for an ice cream cone or fries. In Hong Kong, however, a soft-serve ice cream cone costs about US$0.30, and is a pleasant treat on an oppressively hot and humid day: a small luxury in a land of tiny things. For an extra 13 cents, one can even option their cone to be dipped in chocolate or mango topping, which will harden into a delicious shield, protecting the ice cream from the rest of the world.
Well, the other day I had an idea. I walked up to the McDonald’s counter, requested an ice cream cone: first dipped in mango, and then dipped in chocolate. Shock and awe was apparent on the face of the girl working the register; however, with poise, she rung up the sale, hitting the ‘additional topping’ button to bring my total to HK$4. I waited as she allowed the mango topping to settle and harden around the ice cream, then taking the second plunge to give my cone the additional coating of chocolate. It was a masterpiece of ingenuity and execution. Receiving the cone, I waited with anticipation, not wanting to pass that point between anticipation and realization until the last possible moment. The suspense was terrible, and I hoped it could last. Finally, I took the first bite.
The taste was everything it could be: initial flavors of chocolate and cool vanilla ice cream, with a lagging but present sweet touch of mango played on my taste buds. Inspecting the bite zone allowed for further examination: the distinct structural layers could be viewed in the cross-section, much as one might note the thin layers of crust and upper mantel surround the magma of the earths lower layers. My friend Dan couldn’t resist and ordered himself a cone of the new creation after finishing the standard dip cone that he had already ordered. His reaction proved that mine had been no fluke: a fantastic new desert treat was realized.
Two days later, after finishing dinner at one of the many other dining establishments on campus, Libby, Dan and I excitedly made our way to the McDonald’s counter to order up three Mango-Chocolate double-dipped cones. Libby lined up at the new guy’s register, and Dan and I diverted to another line, knowing how pathetic the new guys product knowledge and ice cream cone making skills are. She asked him for a double dipped cone, and out came the deer-in-the-headlights stare. Snapping out of his initial fear induced paralysis, he asked another associate if it was possible, and then asked the manager if such a thing was possible. Returning, he told her that she could only have one topping on her cone. She obliged and dejectedly accepted her fate.
Fearful of a repeat, I requested my double dipped cone while trying not to appear nervous or out of place: these people can smell weakness, and it is poor form to lose face here in China. I put my HK$4 on the counter and passed it over, only then realizing that the girl who had first created this masterpiece, Renee, was working at the far left register. It was too late to change lines, however, as the manager was already approaching.
“Choose one: Mango or Chocolate,” he demanded.
“No: Mango, and then Chocolate. Four Dollars,” I protested.
“Mango or Chocolate,” he repeated, “Not two. One.”
“No one: Two! Four dollars.” I was back in the night markets, buy bargaining the price up, rather than down.
“Only one,” he insisted.
“Ok – no sale,” I responded. There was no need to make a scene. I simply took my four dollars back and left in shock, but satisfied that this was simply not my battle to win. Dejected, and without my ice cream fix satisfied, we walked out.
I have not returned for ice cream since, and refuse to do so until I receive this fabled double-dip cone. If that means the 2008 Beijing Summer games will have to be played without my contribution to one of their largest sponsors, then so be it! The war has not yet been lost, as there are many McDonald’s in this town – and one of them is bound to be willing to take a chance on greatness.
I did not even get a chance to capture a photo of the first cone … Keep diligent watch, as one day a post will come that shall reverse the fate of this horrible day, brining happiness and love to the world, once again.